How do you get your student to be self motivated and to enjoy practicing their song? Harder still, how do you encourage them to play their pieces with musical feeling, especially if the student is a young child, a distracted teenager or a busy adult? I have learnt that they need to make an emotional connection with their piece. But how do you make possible the sometimes seemingly impossible? Easy! Let me share some of my tried and tested methods for accessing the ‘Story Behind the Song.’

1 Personal responsibility

Wherever possible, I let the student choose their next piece! Sometimes, if I have a certain technique in mind that needs developing, I will offer them a choice between two or three songs that I know will help them in that endeavour. Importantly, this will also make them feel in charge by choosing the final piece. Because THEY are deciding, they are more likely to succeed because they have taken personal responsibility for some of their learning decisions.

2 Inspiration

I like to give them a personal performance of their chosen piece to show them simply what a great composition they have chosen and how much FUN their piece is for ME. I ask them to sit in my chair where I can maintain good eye contact with  [···]

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It’s the start of a new school year on my side of the world, which means that it’s time to reflect on my goals and plans for teaching in the coming year. The first thing I do when making new goals and resolutions is to first look backwards at the year just finished. In order to create realistic goals for 2012, I need to assess what worked and what didn’t in my teaching in 2011.  [···]

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The Search

This month I am closing my West Coast Vocal Studio and heading to the East Coast. As I prepared to do this,  I wanted to assist my students in the process of selecting a new teacher. I hope the letter below is helpful to some of you!

Hello Dear Singers and Families,

Well it is that time! As we begin to prepare our move and I close my west coast studio, it is now time to refer you to other teachers.

I am copying all of you on this list of teachers, and recommending one for each of you to try first. I have taken into account the following aspects of both you and the teachers I am recommending, including :
1. Personality
2. Skill level
3. Strengths and weaknesses
4. I encourage you to give the teacher I chose for you a try first, and if you are not comfortable, try another.

It is fine to “date” multiple teachers for a few lessons while you determine your new path, but not to be “engaged” to more than one- that is not acceptable private teacher behavior.
1. Be up front that you are shopping for a new teacher, tell them I recommended you if I did, and try them a few times.
2. When you have settled on the teacher you think is the best fit for you, then tell them you have decided.
3. This “dating process” is a two way street. If the teacher feels they cannot help you or your personalities do not fit, they can say “no thanks” as well. Do not take this personally, as it is part of the matching up process! You want your teacher to be at their best, and you want to be at your best, and if your personalities and skills don’t mesh, learning may be a struggle. [···]

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